Facilitation: How To Deal With Larger Groups
However, we believe as long as you, as the facilitator, are prepared for these challenges to arise and you have completed all of the necessary planning prior to the meeting, it shouldn’t affect the success or productiveness.
– The increase in size may result in a slower pace and dip in energy within the group. More ideas and opinions can mean it takes longer to reach outcomes or decisions.
– Less assertive and confident participants may find it more daunting to express their ideas or opinions during the discussion.
– Moreover, larger groups are easier dominated and influenced by the confident few.
Preparation and solutions
Planning – With more participants to consider, planning should take you longer. Aim to construct a balanced agenda, which is both structured yet fluid.
Agenda – Decide on all of the issues to aim to cover and consider whether all of the issues need to be discussed by everyone.
Time – More participants will undoubtedly result in more ideas, opinions and a longer discussion. Therefore you must accommodate this when deciding on meeting duration. Forcing a decision whilst the discussion is still in mid flow is likely to leave the participants feeling deflated and frustrated.
Facilitators – You may need more facilitators on hand than you normally would, in order to adapt to the larger group. If possible, it would be a good idea to have someone leading the facilitating, someone to write notes on the flipchart and a separate timekeeper. This ensures that minimal time is wasted and the group is less likely to deviate far from the schedule.
Smaller Groups – Depending on the size of the group, it might be sensible to split up into smaller groups for part of the meeting, delegating different issues to different groups. Ensure that you have put careful thought into which participants belong in which group, and that they are given the relevant topic to their job role. However, final decisions should always been reached by the entire group.
– Always try to keep the aims of the meeting at the forefront of your mind. If discussion deviates off topic, you need to decide whether the conversation is going to contribute to reaching an outcome and if it isn’t, find a way to politely direct participants back to relevant issues.
– Utilise a variety of tools and processes to keep the group interested and enthusiastic.
– Ensure time limits are adhered to as tightly as possible.
– Be supportive and understanding at all times, whilst stopping dominate and negative behaviour.
– Try to create a comfortable environment and atmosphere during the meeting to encourage the best input from all members.